Asbestos is a material which is banned and prohibited to be used on board ships because of the several health hazards that it poses. However, there are some exceptions wherein it can be used on board ships and they are defined in SOLAS Chapter II-1 Regulation 3-5.
The following are the places and applications where Asbestos can be used on ships.
1) It is used in vanes of rotary vane air compressor and rotary vane vacuum pumps.
2) It is also used for insulation and water tight joints which are used for circulation of fluids and where the temperature is in excess of 350 deg C and pressure in excess of 70 bars. It is also used in places where there is risk of fire, corrosion or toxicity.
3) Supple and flexible thermal insulation which is used for temperature above 1000 deg C.
Why Asbestos was commonly used On board Ships Earlier?
Earlier, asbestos was widely used in marine sector in its processed form. The main reason behind this was the heat resistance property. It was also used for providing electrical insulation and imparting strength to other material when used as a reinforcement.
The most common places where asbestos was used are:
1) Used as cladding on fire retardant bulkheads.
2) In glands and gaskets of valves and associated pipe works.
3) Friction Material in winches for brake lining.
4) Thermal insulation such as lagging for boiler, steam pipes.
Reasons for Prohibition of Asbestos
Airborne asbestos fibers are in the form of dust shaped particles, which when inhaled penetrate the lungs and can cause lung cancer disease. Mesothelioma is a fatal disease caused by Asbestos.
Precautions to Minimize Exposure to Asbestos
1) Wet and oil soaked asbestos insulation or material can be replaced without any special precautions to be taken. However, the material removed should be properly disposed off.
2) While working during removal of dry asbestos the dust level can be high. This dust level can be avoided by using hand tools instead of power tools like grinder etc. or by pre-wetting the material. Air to be vented from the compartment should be done in such a way that it is not sucked back again with the fresh air and away from the deck.
3) Access to areas where asbestos is being worked should be available to persons only with proper protective clothing and face masks.
4) Warning signs and placards to be placed where work is being carried out.
5) All collected asbestos materials should be placed in the plastic bag and properly sealed off and disposed properly.
6) The dust should be controlled by using portable dust extraction equipments.